If Bob Moses’ debut album, ‘Days Gone By’ showcased Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance’s comfort in keeping things cool on the dancefloor then ‘Battle Lines’ is a sleek continuation of that crossover craft. All late-night moods and low-key electronica. Where that first outing piqued interest with its gossamer shades, deep grooves and Howie’s vocals dripping on the melancholy, album number two pushes the feeling past the post-club hours and into a sound that hasn’t fully taken shape.
There are solid nods to Moderat (‘Listen to Me’), New Order (‘Back Down’ and ‘Selling Me Sympathy’ while the wide, echoing drums of ‘Heaven Only Knows’ nicely builds up an electronic head of steam the way ‘Much Against Everyone’s Advice’-era Soulwax did so adeptly.
But for all of that blissful restraint, there’s a softness that serves as both the album’s wider appeal and general undoing. Where ‘Days Gone By’ had a slight shift in tempo and texture of ‘Talk’ and the gentle 4/4 nudge of ‘Like It Or Not’ here, tracks like ‘Don’t Hold Back’ and ‘Fallen From Your Arms’ come across like lightweight fodder destined to soundtrack faux emotive reality TV recaps.
Even with ‘Listen to Me’ finding that satisfying balance between melancholic vocals and a BPM injection, ‘Battle Lines’ is a shift away from the sticky club floors and a more deliberate step into something deeper, more submerged, more song-driven.
From day one, both Howie and Vallance have asserted that they didn’t want to just make club tracks and ‘Battle Lines’ increasingly feels like a statement – the line in the sand demarking Bob Moses’ next step. They’ve proven they can get the dancefloor balance right: it remains to be seen whether they can convert the beautiful isolation of those more introspective moments into something truly compelling.